The cytoplasmic ground substance of animal tissue cells grown in vitro has been found by electron microscopy to contain, as a part of its submicroscopic structure, a complex reticulum of strands, to be referred to as the endoplasmic reticulum. It has been found in all types of cells extensively studied.
The components of this reticular system vary considerably in size and form, apparently in some relation to physiological changes in the cell. Thus in one cell of a culture colony it may be finely divided into strands or canaliculi, 50 to 100 mµ in diameter, whereas in an adjacent cell of the same type the components of the reticulum may be relatively coarse, 600 mµ in diameter, and vesiculated. The membrane, which can be shown to limit the system and separate it from the rest of the ground substance, is similar in thickness to the plasma membrane surrounding the cell.
Photomicrographs of living cells taken by phase contrast and dark field microscopy define a structure of similar form and indicate that the reticulum of the electron microscope image has its equivalent in the living unit. Where its component units are sufficiently large, a structure of identical form can be resolved by light microscopy in cells stained with hematoxylin or with toluidine blue. This indicated that the endoplasmic reticulum is to be identified with the basophilic or chromophilic component (the ergastoplasm) of the cytoplasm and that such properties of this component as have been determined by cytochemical methods, such as a high RNA content, may be assigned to this "submicroscopic" system.